Putting a price on water: Can commodification resolve a world water crisis?
- In 2018, a trader listed water on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and then in 2020 introduced a futures market so consumers can factor the cost of water into their investment plans. After a slow start, traders expect the market to grow more strongly in 2023.
- Some analysts see this as a positive step, allowing market adjustments to provide consumers with the cheapest and most efficient way of buying water. Others disagree, saying that water, like air, should not be commodified as it is a fundamental human right and must be available to all.
- Critics fear that creating a water market is a first step toward a future in which just a few companies will be able to charge market rents for what should be a free natural resource. Huge questions remain over water allocations for industry, agribusiness and smallholders, cities, and traditional and Indigenous peoples.
- The clash between these economic and socioenvironmental worldviews isn’t just occurring internationally. The conflict over water regulation is evident in many nations, including Brazil, which lays claim to the world’s biggest supply of freshwater, and Chile, currently suffering from its most severe drought ever.